StanChart partners Health Ministry to tackle blindness

By LYDIA NATHAN / Pic By HUSSEIN SHAHARUDDIN

Standard Chartered Bank (M) Bhd (StanChart) has donated another RM220,000 to assist the Ministry of Health (MoH) to restore the sight of underprivileged cataract patients across Malaysia.

The funds will help cover the cost of 1,000 intraocular lenses under the Intraocular Lens (IOL) project the bank and MoH run to assist patients with eyesight issues, mainly in the rural areas in Sabah and Sarawak.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with StanChart marks the third phase of the collaboration between both parties since 2013 when the project was first founded.

“I applaud StanChart for identifying a niche area and contributing to it as it is a significant service, especially to the rural areas. It is not only surgery that is provided, but also aftercare facilities,” he said in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

The project has attracted funding support from other companies and organisations with lenses purchased by them donated to the bank where patient selection is then made.

A pair of intraocular lens cost between RM500 and RM600 at a government-run hospital and much more at private facilities, according to Dzulkefly.

“It is important for such patients to be integrated into society and be able to overcome this condition, as it is curable.

“There are certain criteria that patients have to conform to before being selected for the surgery,” the minister said.

According to the National Eye Survey in 2014, cataract was the leading cause of treatable blindness and about 1.2% of Malaysians over the age of 50 were blind, with a high 58% due to cataracts.

Under the IOL project, about 52,000 operations are performed every year at government hospitals and the RM220,000 StanChart donations will help an additional 1,000 patients.

The MoH provides treatment at 41 hospitals and via a network of outreach “Cataract Clinic Malaysia” nationwide.

“This project is for the whole of Malaysia, you’ll be surprised at how many needy patients there are in the Klang Valley,” Dr Dzulkefly said.

StanChart’s charity arm, Standard Chartered Foundation, has reached its goal of raising US$100 million (RM420 million) globally, two years earlier ahead of its 2020 target.

The funds are to be used to fight against avoidable blindness and visual impairment worldwide.